Little preparations

Rather than take a big leap into full planning mode for a future business, an epic trip, an inevitable move, a redefining of a relationship, I do little tasks. I read a story about a successful young woman business owner and daydream that I’d be the feature of that kind of article someday. I research when it’s best to travel to Turkey or Thailand or Argentina. I search for apartments on Craigslist in my price range in cities like Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Portland, and imagine the questions I’d ask the landlords–Are these double-paned windows? What’s the average heating cost in the winter? What are the neighbors like? I browse ring and dress websites, mentally bookmarking the ones I like best, in case the need ever arose.

But when it comes to follow-through, I rarely get past these tiny steps, these insignificant blips that fill up a slow day, later to be forgotten or deleted or expired.

A friend wrote a blog post I read today that was defiant and decisive; she’d made up her mind about how she wanted to live her life to the best of her ability, and she didn’t care if anyone else cared. Following her gut, knowing that her decisions, good or bad to others, were only truly relevant to her. No one had the right to comment or judge her movements or thoughts. If they did, let them–she’d go on living her life without their personal observations. She’s not scared to do and say what she thinks because she’s afraid the world will tell her she’s going about it all wrong. (I am constantly reminded why I am proud to call her a friend.)

I wish I had this courage–to take the big steps, to make the big plans, to upend social expectations, to execute what I only sketch out in my dreams. Here’s hoping she’ll inspire me to broach the parts of life I’ve been tiptoeing around. After all, in the end, you’re the one who has to live with how much happiness you’ve allowed yourself.

Relationships–where do I fit in?

I don’t have any plans to get married or engaged anytime soon, but I came across a website called A Practical Wedding recently that I can’t stop reading. There are so many essays that explore relationships and your place in them that really resonate with me.

One of my favorites is “It’s Still Worth It.” The comments, in particular, made my chest tighten up and a ray of hope shoot out from somewhere. The comment from MegsMom in particular is my favorite. I’m just going to post a bulk of it here:

“I often compare a good marriage to job that you really, really love.

I have spent my career years as a teacher. I love it. I am passionate about it. I always have felt and thought that it was something that I was called to do. Over the years, I have had bad days, bad weeks, bad months. I have had bad YEARS. Years where by November 1, I couldn’t wait for the year to end. Long stretches in which I wanted to tear my hair out and scream by the end of almost every day. For most of my career, I taught in neighborhoods in which the kids had almost every card in the deck stacked against them, and I sometimes felt that what I did for them was a hopelessly inconsequential drop in the bucket.

But did I want to quit teaching? I would sometimes fantasize about it. A couple of times I went so far as to investigate what additional training I would need in order to switch careers. But when it came down to a serious decision, I always chose to stay. Teaching gave me so much joy, so much satisfaction, and the kids returned so much love. And every time a kid’s face literally lit up with the realization that they understood something new, I felt that I had had a small part in the making of that miracle.

If your marriage is that: up times, down times, struggling times, and every once in a while miracle times, however small, then it is well worth helping each other find ‘the courage to love in the face of uncertainty.'”

When you hear “you just know” from so many people when it comes to choosing a future spouse, I get so frustrated. I don’t “just know” about ANYTHING. I hem and haw over which grocery store to go to every week, for goodness sake. How am I supposed to feel completely sure about a much bigger decision, even with time?

While the person who wrote this essay and I do not share the same situation, many of the sentiments are the same. This part particularly comforted me:

“As somewhat of a self-identified hopeless romantic who has always been giddy about the prospect of sharing my life with a partner whom I truly love, for some strange reason I thought the act of getting married and choosing that partner would be different. That it would be immune to the anxious rules that govern my decision-making skills, even though they especially govern huge decisions that will affect me for the rest of my life. I was a little disappointed when I realized that as we started to seriously consider getting engaged, my thoughts were overrun with the same overanalyzing and anxiety I’ve always experienced. Eventually I had to come to grips with the reality that this wasn’t going to be some magical “you-just-know” moment for me. I don’t work that way. I had a great talk recently with a newly wed friend who is similarly indecisive like me and she wisely told me that for people like us, we can’t hold on to a romanticized hope that our brain will just function differently for this one big decision. And it’s okay to analyze it, try to make sense of it in our minds, and that analyzing does not in any way indicate that you shouldn’t be marrying him. That was a relief to hear because not only had I been thinking about the stress of making such a huge decision, I had been worried that because of the fact I thought about how difficult this decision was, it somehow meant that we shouldn’t actually be getting married. The analyzing only indicates that’s how you work, that’s how you make big decisions, according to my friend. And in the end you should trust yourself and know that you’ve never in your life made a big decision that was flawlessly easy, that you were 100% at rest with. This wasn’t going to be that way either. And that is okay.”

I’m hoping that in the next year or two, I have a good idea about where I’d like to be with this relationship long-term. In the words of the second essay, I have a new goal for this time: “Come to a place where you feel like you can trust yourself to make a good and solid decision about marrying.” Because honestly, I don’t even know how I feel about the institution itself.

I emailed a stranger

That title sounds like a Lifetime movie. I DID email a stranger, but with a purpose: to make a new friend.

When I moved to Baltimore in July, I thought it would be completely different from living in DC. And it is, for the most part–people you don’t know say hello to you in the morning on the street, rent is cheaper, and a beer is $2. But what’s too similar for my taste is how hard it is to make friends here. People may talk to you at bars with no other agenda than to be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking for a friend.

My boyfriend and I go out to dinner or for drinks a few times a week, and he rarely fails to strike up a conversation with someone. Sometimes, people will start talking to us. And about half of the time, they seem normal or like people one or both of us would want to hang out with. But you can’t just ask a stranger to dinner (although this did happen to us at Crate & Barrel, which is another story).

I love food: reading about it, watching shows on it, cooking it, eating it, the dining experience, the excitement of looking at menus and reviews and picking out my next stop, the unexpected surprises. I generally like other people who appreciate a good meal or a well-made drink.

Finding these people isn’t easy, though. I ran a Meetup group for a couple of months here for people who lived in my neighborhood that were around my age. I hesitated to start another food Meetup (which I’ve done in Boston and DC), but looking back, maybe I should have. I met one girl I liked, but being the facilitator and making people feel comfortable at each and every event, rather than getting to talk to the people that seemed most interesting to me, got exhausting. My boyfriend and I hang out with one of his friends and his girlfriend, and she likes to bake. (From my experience, though, bakers and cooks are different breeds of people.) Half a year in, I’ve sort of given up trying.

I was reading the City Paper‘s eats section online yesterday and came across a review for a bar that’s near me. The writing was concise and funny, and when I Googled the author, she looked normal and nice. I emailed her, under the pretense of wanting to connect with other people that love food in Baltimore, and to talk about how she got to where she is. But really, I’m hoping we might hit it off and become friends.

God, does that sound creepy.

If it works, though, then I’m keeping on this blog bandwagon. I met my boyfriend online (he’s normal, I swear), found my apartment on Craigslist, and applied for a job on the Internet. Why not try to make friends through it?

What’s with everyone I know getting engaged?

And why does it suddenly sound not so bad?

Basically, before this week, I’d hear about people getting engaged, or see it on Facebook, and think, Seriously, what’s the rush? Blogs with foofy weddings, all that DIY shit, that’s never been me. I went to a friend’s wedding right after college, and I was put off by its cheesiness and the fact that they watered down the drinks considerably. All this stuff is just not for me.

But after reading east side bride, and MAYBE writing to her for advice, I think I know what irks me. It’s the wedding part. I could care less about tablecloths and Chivari chairs and making paper tassels for the backs of seats at the ceremony. I tried knitting once, and I got so fed up that I couldn’t master it in the first row of stitches that I gave up and never worried about it again.

Marriage, though? That doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe. I mean, I’m still not totally sold on it. What if you get tired of that person? More importantly, what if they get tired of you? What happens if you find out way later that your husband has some side life you didn’t know about (and you think you’re pretty savvy and aren’t the kind of person that kind of thing actually happens to), or if there’s something about him that gets worse with time instead of better that you just can’t get over? How are you supposed to know when it’s the right time and if that person’s THE person, and what if THEY don’t care about getting married–does that mean they’re not for you?

My parents had pretty much the best marriage I know. They got lucky. They went on one date, and my mom proposed to my dad on the second. (It was kind of a joke, but kind of not.) They moved in three months later, and they got engaged after six months total when my grandfather asked them at some holiday dinner if they were going to get married. They looked at each other and shrugged and said, sure, okay, that sounds good. My mom had just turned 23 when they got married, and my dad was 26.

Sure, they fought when I was growing up, and I’d ask if they were going to get divorced. “No, of course not,” they’d always say. My dad had his temper and his quirks. My mom’s enthusiasm could probably be overbearing. But it would be a short fight, and in the next few hours, if not in less time, they’d at least seem back to normal.

My dad died three and a half years ago (though it feels like much less). I had a conversation with my mom recently about the holidays and how she got Dad to come to dinners with her–my mom’s side is Jewish, my dad’s is Christian (and he was vehemently non-practicing). We Jews have a bunch of dinners all packed together in the fall, and I guess it can be overwhelming, if you didn’t grow up in a stereotypical Jewish family. Our dinners are big, loud, and full of gossiping about Esther so-and-so’s son, or who’s not looking so good on the golf course. I’m a pretty talkative person, but I have to fight to be heard at these meals. So for my dad, who came from a conservation Lutheran family in Pennsylvania where no one talked about anything over dinner, both my mom and I could tell it wasn’t always easy for him.

My mom told me that the only real, lasting argument they had was the discussion about the Jewish holidays every year. She’d ask him to go to one service with her; he refused. She wanted him to come to both nights of every holiday dinner; he said he’d go to one. It really bothered her, and every year ended the same. Mom said the holidays were always a tough time for her. I never knew this was a thing.

This is a problem I understand now, because I’m going through it, too. My boyfriend is wonderful. He’s extremely patient with my need to control everything (I’m working on it), and he’s just as weird (if not weirder) than me. But this year, our first holiday season together as an actual couple (I hate this word), he didn’t understand why I wanted him to come to even one night of each of the holiday’s dinners. “Won’t we just see them next month?” He assumed there was a Jewish holiday every few weeks, which I can see as a reasonable assumption if you were raised completely the opposite.

We talked about it, and I think he gets why it’s important to me, even if my family can be hard to bear at times. I guess we’ll find out next year.

But this brings me back to the original point of this post. Kind of. The part where you get this pretty ring that was picked out just for you, where this person has decided that you are IT, ideally for the rest of your lives, that he wants to tell everyone he’s related to and likes that hey, this lady is special, and I want to have a big party and a teary ceremony where I can show you just how awesome she is and we are together–this seems like a really nice thing to get to feel. And the whole idea where you can go in on a house together, if you want one, and pick out a pet together, if someone doesn’t already have one, and you have someone who is in your corner, is the family that YOU chose. I think that’s pretty neat and adult-like.

I think I might be a candidate, and it kind of freaks me out.